The Prime Minister of the Caribbean nation that turned a gay cruise away in 2005 has called for greater tolerance for homosexuals in order to combat the spread of HIV
St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas has called for people to ‘be light’ when dealing with LGBT people because they have a right to express their identity like anyone else.
Douglas made the comments Wednesday at a press conference, saying that rather than judging homosexuals, the Caribbean nation should support them, particularly around helping them get tested for HIV.
‘If you condemn that person as being a homosexual, that person will be afraid and be reluctant to go and get tested,’ Douglas said.
‘If he doesn’t get tested and does not get the care and treatment and advice that he should get if he is positive, and he is positive but does not know because he is afraid to go and get tested because of the discrimination, the virus spreads. That’s why we are saying be light on those who may be engaged in such activities.’
‘Discuss the issue, stop the discrimination, stop the stigmatization and let us therefore discuss this matter in an open, matured and frank way so that we can deal seriously and comprehensively with the spread of HIV.’
Douglas also called for greater tolerance for sex workers, regardless of gender, though he did not go as far to say prostitution should be decriminalized.
‘Those who are engaged in sex work for pay [and] those who are considered to be homosexuals and who continue to suffer at the hand of discrimination and stigmatization … these groups within the spectrum of the HIV/AIDS pandemic go underground and thus refuse to come out and be tested for fear of the discrimination and stigmatization against them,’ Douglas said.
‘We say that that is not good in the management of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and we would wish therefore that governments, including this one and governments around the region, to have a very serious look at the laws which continue to be on our law books that discriminate and stigmatize such persons.’
Earlier this month Douglas said St Kitts and Nevis would inevitably have to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage, saying it would ‘definitely need to be brought to national debate at some time.’
‘I believe the church would want to have its say upon this particular matter,’ Douglas told a caller on St Kitts and Nevis radio.
‘I believe the various groups that are pursuing, in a vigorous way, the human rights of people which is always very fundamental in looking at what people can do or what people cannot do and also looking at what governments can do to lend support or not lend support.
‘I believe we would be guided not only with what is happening in North America and in Europe, but to some extent what has been cultural norms in our own Caribbean society and in our own St. Kitts and Nevis society.’
In March of 2005 St Kitts and Nevis authorities ordered a gay cruise not to dock and to leave its waters, with port authorities saying they did not want homosexuals to land.
St Kitts and Nevis’ approach to LGBT issues is a breath of fresh air compared to other Caribbean nations such as Jamaica and Haiti where mob violence is rife against LGBT individuals.
by Andrew Potts
Source – Gay Star News